Recently, a report from the Legal Aid Justice Center found that one in every six Virginia drivers has a suspended license. That’s much higher than most states, and it reflects the fact that there are a lot of ways to lose your license in Virginia. Worse yet, most Virginia motorists are unaware of how easy it is to suffer a license suspension.
In this article, we’ll go over the 8 most common reasons for the Virginia DMV to suspend your license. We’ll also talk about how you can get your license reinstated once your suspension period is over.
1. Not Paying Court Fines
Virginia is one of several states that revokes residents’ driving privileges if they fail to pay their court costs or child support. This includes both fines that the court assigns as a penalty and miscellaneous costs, like the fee for entering an alcohol safety program.
Missing the deadline on these fees by even a single day could result in the Virginia DMV suspending your license.
The Virginia DMV will not reinstate your license until you pay the full amount that you owe. However, driving on a suspended license can easily result in criminal charges, possible jail time, having your vehicle impounded, and further fines, creating a downward spiral.
Unfortunately, this means that, in most cases, your only choice in this situation is to pay the fee or not drive.
This situation can easily end up feeling hopeless, as most people need a license to work. Fortunately, Virginia law allows you to enroll in a valid payment plan to restore your driving privileges. You will then be able to drive as long as you are enrolled in the plan. However, if you miss even one payment, the DMV can immediately revoke your privileges.
2. DUI/DWI Charges
In Virginia, Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (“DUI”) is a class 1 misdemeanor. In addition to its other penalties, the state will immediately suspend your license. How long the suspension lasts will depend on how many DUI convictions are on your record:
- First Offense: license suspension for one year.
- Second Offense: license suspension for three years.
- Third Offense or More: license revocation, seizure and forfeiture of vehicle.
If the state revokes your license, you will need to petition your local circuit court for reinstatement. Generally, you’ll need to wait at least five years to do so, and possibly more.
In the meantime, most local courts set guidelines that will improve your chances of reinstatement. These usually consist of alcohol or drug awareness classes, community service, and the like.
Driving after your license has been suspended or revoked is crime in itself, which carries up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Restricted Driving Privileges
Depending on how your DUI case works out, you might end up with restricted driving privileges. This means that you are allowed to drive, but only in certain circumstances.
For example, you might be prohibited from driving unless you’re going to work, alcohol and drug awareness classes, and court appointments, or only allowed to drive during certain times.
A violation of these conditions is treated the same as driving on a suspended license.
3. Vehicular Felonies
In Virginia, judges typically punish all forms of felonies related to motor vehicles with license suspensions or revocations. In general, this includes felonies related to dangerous driving, such as hit and run, vehicular assault and battery, manslaughter, or vehicular homicide.
Other things such as theft relating to motor vehicles or making a false statement to the DMV can also result in the suspension or revocation of your license. In Virginia, not only can judges revoke or suspend your license, but the DMV can also do it administratively.
If a judge or the DMV revokes your license, you will have to wait out the revocation period before applying for a new license.
4. DMV Demerit Points
Everyone starts out with 0 points on their license. Every year you go without a traffic ticket or accident, the DMV adds one point, to a maximum of five. However, if you’re found guilty of a traffic violation or traffic related misdemeanor, the DMV will deduct one or more points on your license. Each offense takes between 3 (texting and driving) and 6 (reckless driving) points. If you lose too many points, the DMV may suspend your license.
The exact number of points needed for a suspension depends on the speed at which you lose them. However, the most important cutoffs are:
- -12 points in one year, or -18 points in two years. If you reach this level, the DMV will require you to take a mandatory driving course. If you do not, the DMV will suspend your license.
- -18 points in one year, or -24 points in two years. At this point, the DMV will suspend your license for 90 days. At the conclusion of those 90 days, you will need to take a driving improvement course. If you do so and pay the appropriate fee, the DMV will reinstate your license. You will then be on DMV probation for six months.
Keep in mind that in Virginia Judges do not have the liberty of lowering these point values during sentencing. This means that a conviction for reckless driving, for example, will always be six points on your license.
Traffic Violations in Other States
Virginia is part of the Driver’s License Compact. This means that if you commit a traffic violation in most other states, that will be reported back to the Virginia DMV. The Virginia DMV will then deduct points based on Virginia law.
For example, let’s say you receive a speeding ticket in South Carolina because you were going 21 mph over the speed limit. In South Carolina, that might be a 4-point offense. In Virginia, however, it’s a 6-point violation (and a misdemeanor reckless driving charge!). Because points on a Virginia license are assigned by Virginia law, you will lose 6 points on your license in this case.
If the DMV reinstates your license after suspending it for losing too many points, they will put you on DMV probation for six months. If you receive a ticket for any traffic violation during this time, your license will be suspended again.
At the end of this six-month period, you will enter the “Control Period.” If you receive a ticket during this 18-month period, the DMV will place you under probation again.
Demerit Points for Minors
In Virginia, minors have demerit points on their licenses just like adults. However, the Virginia DMV does not suspend minors’ licenses based on these points. Instead, minors suffer the following penalties if they commit a traffic offense that would normally deduct points:
- After the first conviction, Virginia law requires the minor to attend a driver education class. If they fail to do so, the DMV will suspend the minor’s license.
- Following a second conviction, the DMV will suspend the minor’s license for 90 days.
- After a third conviction, the DMV will suspend the minor’s license until they turn 18 (minimum one year).
Any points you lose while a minor will stay on your license as an adult. Similarly, Virginia does not expunge your driving record when you turn 18.
5. Driving without Insurance
Virginia, unlike almost every other state, does not actually require its drivers to have car insurance. Instead, Virginia drivers may elect to pay a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee to the DMV every year.
This fee does not replace or provide insurance. If you get into an accident on the road, you’ll be stuck paying damages out of your own pocket.
If you fail to purchase insurance or pay the UMV fee, the state may find you guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor. In addition to the usual penalties, the state will immediately seize your plates and suspend your license. This suspension will last until you pay the UMV fee or acquire insurance. In addition, you will need to submit proof of future financial responsibility to the DMV, as well as paying a reinstatement fee.
6. Falsifying Information to the DMV
In Virginia, it is illegal to knowingly provide the DMV with false information while applying for a driver’s license. If the court discovers that you have done so, they will revoke your license as well as issue you a fine and/or time in jail.
In most cases, doing so is a misdemeanor. However, falsifying information for the purpose of acquiring a firearm or providing proof of residency is a felony in Virginia.
Note that this is not the same thing as lying to a police officer. While also a crime, Virginia judges do not typically punish false reporting with license suspensions.
7. Other Offenses
Outside of the points system, Virginia judges may suspend an individual’s license for a wide variety of offenses. Two are particularly common: reckless driving and drug-related charges.
In addition to fines and possible jail-time, Virginia courts will also punish a reckless driving conviction with an immediate license suspension. This sometimes catches motorists by surprise, as it’s not always easy to tell reckless driving charges from regular speeding tickets.
Fortunately, our thorough guide to reckless driving in Virginia makes it easy to educate yourself on the topic.
Under state law, drug offenses carry a mandatory six-month license suspension. In some cases, however, the court may instead mandate community service as part of an approved probation program. Violating the terms of drug-related probation period also carries a penalty of immediate license suspension.
8. Medical or Physical Conditions
In some cases, the state may decide to indefinitely suspend your license based on a persistent medical or physical condition. However, if you can provide a statement from a physician proving your fitness to drive, the state may lift the suspension.
They may choose to do this immediately, or they may require you to take a new driving test. Additionally, the Virginia DMV may require you to submit periodic medical reports to maintain your driver status.
Other Things to Consider
Once your license has been suspended, there are a few scenarios you need to consider so that the problem doesn’t get worse.
License Suspension and Moving to a New State
After having their licenses revoked, many drivers attempt to obtain a new license in a different state. This is almost always a bad idea.
Virginia is a member of the Driver’s License Compact and thus talks to other states about driving charges. Members of this DLC do not grant licenses to individuals who have had their licenses revoked in other states.
The states of Georgia, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Tennessee are not part of the DLC. However, each of those states still uses the same country-wide driver database, the National Driver Registery, to do background checks on new drivers.
For that reason, those states are still very unlikely to grant a new license to someone who has a suspended license in Virginia.
Finally, remember that it is illegal to falsify information on a driver’s license application in every state. Doing so could incur substantial fines, and potentially other penalties.
At the end of your suspension period, you may petition the Virginia DMV to reinstate your license. The requirements for this will vary based on the nature of your suspension. However, you must always provide the following:
- Certification of insurance, or proof that you have payed Uninsured Motor Vehicle fee.
- Valid identification, likely including proof of residency.
- A license reinstatement fee, which will vary based on the reason that your license was suspended.
The DMV will not reinstate your license if you still owe court or jail fees. You may be required to provide proof that those fees have been paid.
A license revocation is different from a license suspension. If a judge revokes your license, that license will be taken away permanently and you’ll have to file for a new one. This process generally lasts several years.
At the end of the recommended waiting period you may petition the court to reinstate your license. You must also request approval from the DMV for a new license and follow the process as if you were applying for the first time.
Note however that the DMV is not required to reinstate your license. Repeat offenders and the elderly can sometimes have their license revoked without the chance of applying for a new one.
It’s surprisingly easy to lose your license in Virginia. However, it’s much more difficult and expensive to have your license reinstated.
For that reason, it’s in your best interest to contact a lawyer immediately if you are charged with anything on this list. Under no circumstances should you wait until the DMV suspends your license to seek legal counsel.